theilian (theilian) wrote,

Ides of March <1> (March-April 44 BC)


ROME (15 MARCH, 44 BC?)

I congratulate you[1] ! I am delighted on my own account. Be sure of my affection and active concern for your interests. I hope I have your affection, and want to hear what you are doing and what is going on.

1 One of the assassins, who struck so wildly that he wounded Rubrius (Nic. Dam. C. 24). He was murdered early in the next year by his own slaves in retaliation for a barbarous punishment inflicted on some of them (Appian, B.C. 3.98). The note is generally thought to be written in reaction to the assassination; though there is no direct evidence of it, nor do we know anything of Cicero's relations with Basilus to explain why he is selected for congratulation out of all the conspirators and is addressed in the first person singular and not as one of the group. He is only once mentioned before, where it appears that he had been inclined to befriend Cicero after Pharsalia, but Cicero only commissions Atticus to send him a formal letter in his name.


ROME, 22(?) MARCH 44 BC

I write to let you know our position. Yesterday evening Hirtius called on me, and told me about the disposition of Antony. It is of course as bad and untrustworthy as possible. Antony said that he could not give me my province, and did not think that it was safe for any of us to remain in Rome with soldiers and the populace in their present agitated state of mind. I think you are aware that both these allegations are false, and that the truth is what Hirtius affirmed, namely, that Antony is afraid that, if we got even a moderate assistance in support of our position, there would be no part left for them to play in the state. Being in these straits I determined to demand a free legation for myself and the rest of us, in order to obtain a decent excuse for leaving the City. He promised that he would procure it, but I don't feel sure that he will do so in view of of the general insolence and vilification of us. Even if they granted our request, I yet think that before long we would be declared public enemies and forbidden water and fire.
You may ask what I adivse. I think we must yield to fortune: we must quit Italy I think, and retire to Rhodes [2] or some place or other in the world. If any improvement occurs we will return to Rome. If things go only fairly well we will live in exile; if the worst comes to the worst, we will have recourse to extreme measures in our support. [3] Perhaps it will here occur to one of you--why should we wait for the worst, rather than make some attempt at once? Because we have no one to depend upon for safety except Sextus Pompeius and Caecilius Bassus, [4] who I think are likely to be still more determined when they hear the news about Caesar. It will be soon enough for us to join them when we know their strength. If you wish me to give any undertaking for Cassius and yourself, I will give it: for Hirtius demands that I should do so. I beg you to answer this letter as promptly as possible--for I have no doubt that Hirtius will inform me on these points [5] before ten o'clock --and tell me where we can meet and to what place you wish me to come.
After my last conversation with Hirtius I have thought it right to demand that we be allowed to remain at Rome under the protection of a state guard. I don't suppose they will agree - for we shall be putting them in a very invidious light. However, I think I must not omit to make any demand which I considered equitable.

2 Rhodes was a libera civitas, and had the right of receiving exiles (ius exilii).

3 That is, take up arms against the government.

4 Sext. Pompeius, younger son of Pompey, had a large fleet in Sicily and neighbouring islands. Caecilius Bassus was in arms in Syria (see vol. iii., p.335). Both were at present in a position independent of either party in the state.

5 That is, as to the libera legatio and the guard.

DCC (A XIV, 1)


I have broken my journey at the house of the person [1] of whom we were talking this morning. According to him, the state of things is utterly deplorable, our problems insoluble: "If a man of Caesar's genius could find no way out, who can hope to succeed now?" In short, he said Rome was ruined. I am not sure that he is wrong but he said it with relish and declared that within three weeks there will be a rising in Gaul. He told me that since the Ides of March he has talked to nobody except Lepidus. In sum, his opinion is that it cannot all just pass quietly off. What a wise man Oppius is, who regrets Caesar quite as much, but yet says nothing that can offend any loyalist! But enough of this.
Pray don't grudge the effort of writing me word of anything new, for I expect a great deal. Among other things, whether we can rely on Sextus Pompeius; but above all about our friend Brutus, of whom my host says that Caesar was in the habit of remarking: "It is of great importance what he wishes; but whatever he wishes, he wishes it strongly". This had struck him when Brutus was pleading for Deiotarus at Nicaea, [2] that he seemed to speak with great spirit and freedom. Matius also told me (I my as well jot things down as they occur to me) that when at Sestius' behest, I went to Caesar's house and was sitting waiting till I was called in, Caesar remarked: "Can I doubt that I am a most unpopular man? There's M. Cicero sitting waiting and can't get to see me at his own convenience. He is the most easy-going of mankind, but I don't doubt that he detests me." This and much else of the same sort. But to return to my point -- whatever crops up, great or small, let me know. I will on my side let nothing pass.

1 Gaius Matius Calvena

2 In B.C. 47, when Caesar was on his way home from the Pontic campaign. Deiotarus had been Pompeian, and was afterwards accused of having attempted to poison Caesar, but the subject of Brutus' pleading was whether he was to retain his dominions.



I received two letters from you yesterday. The first informed me of the scene in the theatre and at Publilius's mime [1] --a good sign of the unanimous feeling of the people at large. Indeed the applause given to Lucius Cassius appeared to me even a trifle effusive. [2]
Your second letter was about our friend Bald-pate.[3] He has no tendency to savage measures, as you imagine. For he has advanced, though not very far.
I have been detained rather a long time by his talk: but as to what I told you in my last, perhaps I did put it obscurely. It was this. He said that on occasion when I called on Caesar at Setius' behest and was sitting waiting, Caesar remarked to him, "I should be an idiot to suppose that even so easy-going an individual as Cicero is my friend when he has to sit waiting my convenience all this time." [4] Well, there you have him - a most peace-hating, which is to say Brutus-hating, Bald-pate...

1 At the representation of a mime of Publilius Syrus, during which the people, as usual, had cheered their favourites

2 L. Cassius (brother of the conspirator) had been a Caesarian, but had in some way shown sympathy with the assassins, and though tribune had been threatened with death by Antony if he came into the senate (Phil. 3.35). Cicero thinks applause given to him shews popular feeling for the party of the assassins.

3 Madaro = madarôi =" Baldhead," a Greek pun on the cognomen of Cicero's host, C. Matius Calvena. I think that Atticus from Cicero's last letter gathered that Matius--a strong Caesarian--was for violent measures; that Cicero means here to modify it, and to say that he has moved somewhat in the direction of conciliation, though not far enough, for he is still bitterly opposed to Brutus. I therefore propose for the unintelligible phalakôma a word used by Atticus before (vii. 12), nullus phalarismos.

4 It is very likely that Cicero wrote this letter in his carriage on the way to Tusculum. He explains that he is late, having been detained by the talk of Matius, but he has just time to repeat the story that follows more clearly than in his last letter. It comes in parenthetically in the middle of his observations about Matius, just as a man might jot down things on a journey.



Your letter anyhow reads like peace. I hope it may last! for Matius declared it impossible. But here come our builders who went to Rome to purchase corn, and returning empty-handed, bring a loud report that at Rome all corn is being collected into Antony's quarters.[1] It must certainly be a mere panic rumour; for you would have written to tell me about it... However, try and get scent of what Antony's disposition is. I am inclined to think that he is more occupied with his banquets than with any mischievous designs. If you have any news of practical importance, write and tell me: if not, at any rate tell me whom the people cheered in the theatre and the latest jests of the mimes. Love to Pilia and Attica.

1 Antony, who had been voted a body-guard after the assassination of Caesar, had continually added to its number till he had an army of about 6,000 men in or just outside Rome (App. B.C. iii. 5; Phil. 2.108).



... Matters are coming to a crisis: for when Matius goes on as he does, what do you think the rest are saying? For my part, I can only be sorry that freedom has been restored without the free constitution, a thing unprecedented in the history of any political community. It makes one shudder to hear their talk and their threats. Moreover, I am afraid of a rising in Gaul also, as well as of the line Sextus Pompeius may take.
But though all the vials of wrath descend upon our heads, the Ides of March are our consolation. Our heroes achieved all that lay with themselves most gloriously and magnificently. What remains to do needs men and money, neither of which we possess...




... Among good signs is Calvena's distress at being an object of suspicion to Brutus. It will be a bad symptom if the legions come from Gaul with their ensigns. What about those that were in Spain--won't they make the same demands? And what about those that Annius took over - sorry, I meant to say C. Asinius, [2] a slip of memory...
But I should like to know something about the arrival of Octavius. [4] Is there a great flocking to visit him, any suspicion of a coup on his part? I don't expect it myself: still I should like to know the truth whatever it is...


2 That is, C. Asinius Pollio, now governor of Hispania Ulterior.

4 C. Octavius (the future Augustus) was at Apollonia in Epirus when the letter from his mother informed him of his great-uncle's death. The legions in the neighbourhood, that had wintered there to be ready for Caesar's expedition against the Getae, offered him their support. But he refused it and started for Italy with his friends. Cicero seems to think that he was already in Rome, but he did not go there for some weeks. He went to his mother and stepfather's Villa near Cumae, where he now is and where Cicero a little later met him. Cicero still calls him Octavius--not Octavianus--an indication that he was not (as some have maintained) adopted in his uncle's lifetime. After adoption his name is Gaius lulius Caesar Octavianus.



... Paullus [4] showed me one which he had received from his brother [Lepidus], at the end of which he said that he knew there was a plot forming against himself, and that he had ascertained it on undoubted authority. I wasn't pleased with that, and Paullus much less so. I am not sorry for the Queen's [5] flight. I should like you to tell me what Clodia has done...

4 L. Aemilius (Lepidus), who had taken the name of Paullus from adoption, brother of the triumvir. Consul B.C. 50.

5 Cleopatra, who had been staying at Rome--in Caesar's transtiberine horti--at the time of the assassination.



... As to your question about the reason for my having sent for Chrysippus--two of my shops have fallen down and the rest are cracking. So not only the tenants but even the mice have migrated. Other people call this a disaster, I don't call it even a nuisance. Ah Socrates and Socratic philosophers, I can never repay you! Good heavens, how utterly trivial such things appear to me! But after all I am adopting a plan of building on the suggestion and advice of Vestorius, which will convert this loss into a source of a profit.
Here there is a great crowd of visitors and there will, I hear, be a greater still, including the two so-called consul-designates.[2] The tyranny lives on though the tyrant is dead! We rejoice at his slaughter, yet defends his acts! Accordingly, M. Curtius [3] criticises us with such severity that one feels ashamed to be alive. And not without reason: for it it would have been better to die a thousand deaths than to endure the present state of things, which seems to me likely to be more than a passing phase...

1 Some property that had been left to Cicero and others by Cluvius of Puteoli. Cicero had bought out his co-heirs (vol. iii., p.321).

2 Pansa and Hirtius had been designated consuls by Caesar.

3 M. Curtius Postumus, an ardent Caesarian. See vol. ii., p.316.

DCCX (A XIV, 10)


CAN it be true? Is this all that our noble Brutus has accomplished--that he should have to live at Lanuvium, and Trebonius should have to slink to his province by by-roads? That all the acts, memoranda, words, promises, and projects of Caesar should have more validity than if he were still alive? Do you remember that on that very first day of the retreat upon the Capitol I exclaimed that the senate should be summoned into the Capitoline temple? Good heavens, what might have been effected then, when all loyalists--even semi-loyalists--were exultant, and the brigands utterly dismayed! You lay the blame on the Liberalia. [1] What was possible at the time? By that time we were long sunk. Do you remember that you cried out that the cause was lost if he had a public funeral? Well, he was actually cremated in the Forum with a moving eulogy, and slaves and beggars were sent with firebrands to attack our homes. What next! They even have the impudence to say: "You utter a word against the will of Caesar?" These and other things like them I cannot endure, and accordingly I am thinking of wandering away "land beyond land." But your land [2] is in the lee of the gale...
Octavius arrived at Naples on the 18th of April. There Balbus called on him early next day, and on the same day came to see me at Cumae, told me Octavius is going to accept the inheriance [5] But as you say, he fears(?) a mighty tussle with Antony...
My brother Quintus writes to me with heavy complaints of his son, chiefly because he is now complaisant to his mother, whereas in old times when she was kind to him he was on bad terms with her...

1 That is, the meeting of the Senate on the 17th of March, which ratified Caesar's acts and declared an amnesty.

2 Athens, where Cicero was thinking of going to visit his son, who was slacking in his study.

5 His stepfather Philippus had advised him not to accept the inheritance and adoption (Nicol. Dam. 18).



... When I read a public speech about "so great a man", "so illustrious a Roman", I can scarcely contain myself. Of course this sort of thing has become a joke. But remember this: that is how the habit of pernicious speech-making grows, so that those --I won't say heroes-- gods of ours will no doubt be glorious to all eternity, but not without ill will or even danger. However they have a great consolation in the consciousness of a grand and glorious deed. What have we, who are not free though the king is slain? Well, we must leave all this to chance since reason has no say... I have here with me Balbus, Hirtius, and Pansa. Octavius has lately arrived at the next villa to mine, that of Philippus.[3] He is quite devoted to me...

3 The stepfather of Octavius. It was the policy of Octavius for the present to feign devotion to the boni as a protection against Antony. He presently made them see what his real feeling to them was, though he sincerely admired and liked Cicero.



...You know how fond I am of the Sicilians, and what an honour I consider it to be their patron. Caesar granted them many privileges with my full approval, though the Latin franchise was intolerable, but let that pass. Well, here is Antony putting up (in return for a massive bribe) a law --alleged to have been carried at the comitia by the dictator, granting the Sicilians full Roman citizenship, a thing he never mentioned in his lifetime. Again take the case of my client Deiotarus, isn't it much the same? He, of course, deserved any kingdom you please, but not through Fulvia. [1] There are hundreds of similar cases...
Octavius is with me here -- most respectful and friendly. His own people addressed him as "Caesar," but Philippus did not, so I did not do so either. [3] I declare that it is impossible for him to be a good citizen. [4] He is surrounded by such a number of people, who even threaten our friends with death and call the present state of things intolerable. What do you think they will say when the boy comes to Rome, where our liberators cannot go safe? They have won eternal glory, and even happiness from the consciousness of their great deed. But for us, unless I am mistaken, there is only humiliation ahead. Therefore I long to leave the country and go "Where of the Pelopidae," etc. I don't like even these consuls-designate, [6] who have actually forced me to give them some lessons in oratory, to prevent my having any rest even at the seaside. But that's what I get by being too good-natured. In old times declamation was in a manner a necessity of my existence: now, however things turn out, it is not so. For what a long time now have I had nothing to write to you about! Yet I do write, not to give you any pleasure by this letter, but to extract one from you...

1 Deiotarus of Galatia, whom Cicero had defended before Caesar, was restored by Antony to the possession of lesser Armenia--who alleged a minute of Caesar's; but really, Cicero says, because Deiotarus had bribed

3 Being adopted in Caesar's will the future Augustus was now properly Gaius Iulius Caesar Octavianus (the adjectival form of his original name, as usual). But this adoption required a formal confirmation by a lex curiata--which Antony managed to postpone till August B.C. 43. Meanwhile his friends gave him by courtesy the name which he was entitled to claim, but to which he had not yet technically a full right. We shall find Cicero calling him Octavianus by-and-by, but not "Caesar" till it became necessary to compliment him.

4 Reading bonum civem esse. By omitting esse Cicero is made to say that no good citizen could call him "Caesar," as it would be acknowledging the adoption. This seems to me much too strong. Cicero had consented to the confirmation of Caesar's public acta, surely it would be unreasonable to reject the disposition of his private property.

6 Pansa and Hirtius.



... Nevertheless, if there is to be a civil war, as there is sure to be, if Sextus Pompeius is going to remain in arms--as I know for certain he will--what I am to do I am at loss to conceive. Neutrality, which was possible in Caesar's war, will not be possible now. Anyone who in the opinion of this party of desperadoes was glad at Caesar's death --and we all showed our joy in the most open way-- will be considered by them as an enemy. This points to a large-scale massacre. The alternative is to go to the camp of Sextus Pompeius or perhaps to that of Brutus. It is a tiresome step and quite unsuitable to our age... For ourselves let us only take care--a thing which is within our power--that we bear whatever comes with fortitude and philosophy, remember that we are but men, and take much comfort in study and not a little too in the Ides of March.
Now join me in the deliberation which is distracting my mind, owing to the many conflicting arguments which occur to me on either side. If I go to Greece, as I had decided, with a libera legatio, I feel I am to some extent avoiding the danger of impending massacre, but am likely to incur some reproach for having deserted the state at such a grave crisis. If on the other hand I remain, I perceive that I shall be in danger indeed, but I suspect that in certan contigencies I might be able to do service to the state. There is also a consideration of a private nature, namely, that I think it of great importance for confirming my son in his good resolutions that I should go to Athens, and I had no other motive for my journey at the time when I contemplated accepting a libera legatio from Caesar. Therefore pray take under your consideration the whole question, as you always do in anything which you think concerns me...




... Quintus junior has written a very unpleasant letter to his father, which was delivered to him on our arrival at Pompeii. The main point was that he would not put up with Aquilia as a stepmother. That perhaps one might tolerate, but what do you think of his saying that he had hitherto owed everything to Caesar, nothing to his father, and for the future looked to Antony? What an abandoned rascal! But we'll see to it...
Take my word for it that in my opinion there was less risk in attacking that wicked party when the tyrant was alive than now that he is dead. For some reason he was extraordinarily patient where I was concerned. Now we can't move an inch without being pulled up by a reference to Caesar, not only his measurs but his intentions...
Tags: cicero letters
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